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Thread: Digital Capture vs. Film Capture...the PRINTS...

  1. #1

    Digital Capture vs. Film Capture...the PRINTS...

    After receiving some Canon 5D prints recently, only sized at 8X10, I found it a bit distracting that some prints about 3 years back made with a Contax G2 and 28mm and 45mm lenses, negative film, and printed to 8X12, look much better in these ways:

    1) Color
    2) Aliveness-feeling
    3) Artistic

    No particular order, though I have to say the "feeling" of anything digital I have seen and anything film I have on hand is "very" different, be it 35mm-4X5.

    I have used about every camera that supposedly looks like film be it FF or something from say, Sigma with Foveon tech or Fuji/Kodak with the Kodak sensor reminiscent in some way or another to the Leica M8 (never used). I have not used anything larger than DSLR, but don't know why it would make a difference when I see it on the print where it matters most.

    In the end, I have not seen, to this day, a digital image look like a film image. I can always seem some nuance/issue with digital capture that distinguishes itself in a poor way from film. I prefer clean and clear images, hence why there is a reason to shoot with larger film dependent on final print size.

    When looking at web images, digital capture can look phenomenal, simply awesome. But on print, I just do not see it and have not seen it.

    There is a guy that shoots with a Phase 45 setup and I will be able to view his prints. He does this as a hobby and works hard to follow a lot of what is out there regarding final print quality and simply technical merits of getting a very good image. So I have rather high and low expectations of this person's work, especially after thinking this person's Canon 5D prints would plain/simply be superior to even 35mm negative film images. It was a big time shock when all I wanted to do with the 5D images was do what I have wanted to do with my own digital experience, and that is to tweak the image as much as possible to make it look good and subjectively similar to film with film's attributes mentioned above.


    Am I the only one alone in this digital vs. film "prints" thing? If not, I don't understand why people ever bring "resolution" into digital/film discussions if the print from digital is never going to look as good to the eye as what the film image looks like OR even vice versa=people that feel a digital print looks aesthetically nicer on a whole and of course resolution shouldn't mean squat to them either.


    Don't want this to be a digital vs. film debate, but I cannot find a way out of this digital "look" that lacks the "quality" film provides...and this is only speaking on behalf of color work. Won't even get into b/w...

  2. #2

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    Re: Digital Capture vs. Film Capture...the PRINTS...

    And I've been looking at some 8x10 prints which look amazing - and they're shot with a tiny compact digital called a Sigma DP1... All a matter of perference. I personally find digital capture really excels in the area of color, but you need to understand a fair bit about color management to be able to effectively translate that into prints. Personally I think digital color is a doddle to produce decent results compared to wet color darkroom work.

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    Re: Digital Capture vs. Film Capture...the PRINTS...

    There are many confounding variables here. The CZ lenses you mention are some of the finest.

  4. #4
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Re: Digital Capture vs. Film Capture...the PRINTS...

    Personally, speaking b&w, I think this kind of never ending comparison is completely off the mark. Each medium has its own unique look, strengths and beauty. Its like dye transfer and a really good ilfochrome. Which is better? They are simply different and in the right hands both can be beautiful or crap. I do both digital and traditional prints from film and exhibit both side by side. I am trying to make each print the best it can be. Some print better in silver and some better in digital. There are images I can make come alive in ink that simply won't print worth a damn any other way, because of the amount of tonal control I have in digital. Likewise I have reached a point with digital capture that I can make a b&W print from stitched DSLR files that will hold its own next to my best silver prints. It is allot of work, more work than silver I think, but worth the effort.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    "When did photography become a desk job?" Kirk Gittings 2009

    KIRK GITTINGS
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  5. #5

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    Re: Digital Capture vs. Film Capture...the PRINTS...

    Kirk,

    I agree with you in terms of the final print. Carbon tranasfer , Dye transfer, cibachrome, inkjet, pt/pd, silver, are all different media and each has its strong points, and weak points as well in many cases. And of course, printing directly from an in-camera negative is an entirely different experience than printing with a digital file, whether made by digital capture or scanned.

    Basically I think it is wonderful that we have all these technologies, and more than I have not mentioned.

    However, on the issue of digital capture versus film capture I have been and continue to be very interested in the comparison, for the simple reason that I can not afford to own every camera in the world, and even if I could, the excess would probably be counter productive. So I don't find the subject of a comparison of scanned MF or LF film with 22-25 mp DSLR or MF digital back at all off the mark. Chances are most of us can only afford to own and use one of the other, and it makes sense to use the system that best fits your needs. For that reason I am interested in hearing as much as I can from others about the comparisons, and any time I have the opportunity I make my own comparisons I plan to do so.

    So I certainly hope that you, as moderator of this forum, do not discourage others from making and discussing these types of comparisons. I believe they are both interesting and relevant to the choices we will make now and in the future regarding the equipment we buy and use.


    Sandy King


    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Gittings View Post
    Personally, speaking b&w, I think this kind of never ending comparison is completely off the mark. Each medium has its own unique look, strengths and beauty. Its like dye transfer and a really good ilfochrome. Which is better? They are simply different and in the right hands both can be beautiful or crap. I do both digital and traditional prints from film and exhibit both side by side. I am trying to make each print the best it can be. Some print better in silver and some better in digital. There are images I can make come alive in ink that simply won't print worth a damn any other way, because of the amount of tonal control I have in digital. Likewise I have reached a point with digital capture that I can make a b&W print from stitched DSLR files that will hold its own next to my best silver prints. It is allot of work, more work than silver I think, but worth the effort.

  6. #6

    Re: Digital Capture vs. Film Capture...the PRINTS...

    I could help not chiming in on this one. Rants in the past pretty well clarify my position, if anyone can remember. I keep reading in trade publications about "big time-big money" wedding, food, and portrait photogs who have given up digitial and gone back to film. One example, making a bride look like white wedding dress is not smudgy, dirty, and her complexion real looking, not like a corpse in a coffin. There are lots of other examples. Interesting in todays news that Kodak digitial profits dropped almost as much as the film profits. I also agree there is a "different" look to black and white digitial and film digitial. Here, it is almost more of an artistic decision. I know a few digitial photogs whose work looks great, but usually that is when it is extremely contrasty. On the whole, however, most of the stuff looks like crap produced by someone just learning darkroom print quality.

  7. #7
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Re: Digital Capture vs. Film Capture...the PRINTS...

    Good points Sandy. I am just putting in my two cents regarding the OP's stated "don't want this to be a digital vs. film debate".

    And Frank, I think "On the whole, however, most of the stuff [digital capture prints?] looks like crap produced by someone just learning darkroom print quality." is because crappy digital prints are largely being produced by people just learning digital print quality.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    "When did photography become a desk job?" Kirk Gittings 2009

    KIRK GITTINGS
    WEBSITE

    LIGHT+SPACE+STRUCTURE (blog)

  8. #8

    Re: Digital Capture vs. Film Capture...the PRINTS...

    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Gittings View Post
    Personally, speaking b&w, I think this kind of never ending comparison is completely off the mark. Each medium has its own unique look, strengths and beauty. Its like dye transfer and a really good ilfochrome. Which is better? They are simply different and in the right hands both can be beautiful or crap. I do both digital and traditional prints from film and exhibit both side by side. I am trying to make each print the best it can be. Some print better in silver and some better in digital. There are images I can make come alive in ink that simply won't print worth a damn any other way, because of the amount of tonal control I have in digital. Likewise I have reached a point with digital capture that I can make a b&W print from stitched DSLR files that will hold its own next to my best silver prints. It is allot of work, more work than silver I think, but worth the effort.
    Thank You Kirk, Don and Sandy.

    I have been waiting "a lot" for a good deal to come across for the DP1 as I know it has a very special sensor and glass on it. I also agree about the different chemicals, processess, one thing working for one and another working for another, etc. etc.

    I'd really wish to get to a place where I can have out in front of me various prints done with different camera types, digital and film, and see if these issues I have disappear or if I can still see them and the are still distracting.

    Too bad New Mexico is a bit out of range from a trip I'll be taking across the States from Detroit-Pacific NW.

  9. #9

    Re: Digital Capture vs. Film Capture...the PRINTS...

    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Gittings View Post
    Good points Sandy. I am just putting in my two cents regarding the OP's stated "don't want this to be a digital vs. film debate".

    And Frank, I think "On the whole, however, most of the stuff [digital capture prints?] looks like crap produced by someone just learning darkroom print quality." is because crappy digital prints are largely being produced by people just learning digital print quality.
    I definitely do not want to make a film is better than digital and digital is better than film type of thing. I don't believe in having such a biased outlook in anything with life. I'm always simply wanting to learn and at the same time see if others are having similar experiences as I do or if they are having experiences like you do. I would love to be able to view some of your work and see if that "digital" aesthetic disappears or if I still see it, just as I am hoping to see this person's work with the Phase 45 back and see if the digital is looking nice or if I still need to see more artists out there to see just what can be acheived with digital by comparison to film. I don't think there's a question, movements aside=large format's biggest pro over any format available, that anyone like myself would love to have a full digital output from capture to print due to the wealth of pros digital has.

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    Re: Digital Capture vs. Film Capture...the PRINTS...

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Bagbey View Post
    I could help not chiming in on this one. Rants in the past pretty well clarify my position, if anyone can remember. I keep reading in trade publications about "big time-big money" wedding, food, and portrait photogs who have given up digitial and gone back to film. One example, making a bride look like white wedding dress is not smudgy, dirty, and her complexion real looking, not like a corpse in a coffin. There are lots of other examples.
    Speaking of examples, I could not help but notice that whenever you bring up those "famous photographers who reverted back to film" that you never mention any names or give any real-life examples, websites, etc.

    Perhaps this could be a good opportunity to correct that?

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Bagbey View Post
    Interesting in todays news that Kodak digitial profits dropped almost as much as the film profits.
    Yeah, interesting thing, economy... Most of us could not help but notice too that it really sucks lately - one needs only look at their 401(K) or investment portfolios to realize just how much. What's even more interesting is that some plans seem to be more digital-oriented while the others are more film-heavy, so to speak in Kodak terms.

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